Interview with Jimmy O’Keefe

Today, we sat down with Jimmy O’Keefe to talk about his writing inspiration for music, types of music he enjoyed growing up and much more. Be sure to check out his music below after the interview on Spotify!

Interview:

What is your inspiration to write your music? Is it your

surroundings?
                        My inspiration? I think it changes depending on the circumstances and the context. I’m definitely influenced by surroundings. But like a lot of artists, I’m looking for the throughline to other surroundings, looking for what connects different surroundings to each other. I want the things I write to be applicable to different surroundings. The latest single I wrote, Racing Against My Fate, could be about addiction. It could be about karma. It could be about damnation. It could be about the anxiety we’re all pressed to feel because it seems like the whole world is swimming and everyone is about to drown.
What type of music did you listen to growing up?
                       I’d go through phases. Mostly guitar-inspired music, so rock. I was more of an album person than a genre person. I’d get obsessed with an album for a few weeks. Then, I’d become obsessed with another album, so on and so forth. I can’t exactly remember the first album I became obsessed with, but I think it was Ten by Pearl Jam. I had this delusion at the time that I was the only person who knew who Pearl Jam was even though I bought the album in 2004. Having that kind of relationship with specific artists around specific albums was pretty crucial to my development as a kid. These days, I try to create that same type of intimacy and connection with the songs I write.
Is there someone you looked up as a hero?
            I guess I feel a little strange about the idea of people having heroes. I used to have a lot. I think it’s a little scary to put someone on a pedestal like that. Especially in times like this where there are lots of people that aspire to be demagogues – politicians, influencers, celebrities. We mark our social standing by how many followers we have, how many disciples we have. So, I’m scared of the word “hero.” I have people that I admire, but no one I would call a hero. I feel like a hero runs a heroic rat race, stuck in a story that he tells himself about himself to make himself feel better.
           On the flip side, maybe I want to be a hero that’s recognized for my music. Maybe I’m just bitter because no one has demagogued me yet, and I want people to demagogue me. I struggle with this back and forth a lot. I write about it a lot in my songs. I often find myself hating myself for it. But the struggle comes out in my music.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing today?
            I am a teacher. I teach reading and writing. It’s what I’m doing right now. It’s really challenging, but it can also be rewarding. I love teaching even though it can be frustrating because there are so many regulations that stifle kids’ curiosity. Teachers’ hands are often tied by district policies that go against our personal values and beliefs. This can be gut-wrenching. But it really does train you to try to look at the whole forest – not just the trees. It’s easy to get caught up in the details that are clear injustices. But for the most part, I find myself feeling proud of my students at the end of the year, even if they may have really challenged me (which – I have to remind myself – is what they are supposed to do).
What advice do you have for our fans out there that want to create
music?
          Play out. If you create music, be a part of the way you share it with the world. Don’t just be an image.

While we’re on the topic of image, I find it hard to create an “image”. I’m struggling with it as we speak. If you’re like me and you struggle with what your image is supposed to be, then let people hear you in the real world. Let them hear what you are capable of – what your voice can do, what your poetry can do. Word of mouth is still the greatest form of communication humanity has ever created. It beats the internet any day.

Music: